Monday, August 08, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Canadian Space Agency...

With all the current fuss and bother going on south of the border and the large amounts of money being spent by Canadian space systems companies to open up US and international markets, it's easy to forget that space related activities sometimes do occur even at our government funded space agency.

With that in mind, here are some of the events and activities currently listed as happening on the website of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA):
Next generation Canadarm. Photo c/o CSA.
  • According to the CSA post "The Next-Generation Canadarm: Building on an Icon," work is progressing on the next-generation Canadarm (NGC), which the website describes as "the futuristic centrepiece of Canada’s next step in advanced space robotics." The $36 million CDN funding for the program was part of the 2010 Canadian Economic Action Plan, which is expected to wind-down this year, but which has also contributed a total of $110 million CDN to recent CSA programs. The new Canadarm includes a proximity operation system testbed and a a semi-autonomous docking system (SADS) designed to automate the docking procedure plus a smaller Canadarm (with a 3.4-metre reach) designed specifically to refuel or repair satellites in space. Most of the work on this new arm is being done out of the Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) Brampton, Ontario robotics facility (which has worked on previous Canadarms) although testing is also occurring at CSA facilities in St. Hubert, PQ.
CCGS Amundsen.
  • Since veteran astronaut Julie Payette isn't likely to get another ride into orbit anytime soon (Chris Hadfield is the next and so far also the last Canadian scheduled for a trip to orbit, during Expedition 34/35 in 2012-2013), it's good that she has other adventurous and useful places to visit. According to the August 4th, 2011 CSA post "Julie Payette in the Arctic" one of those adventurous and useful places is aboard the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, surveying the Arctic ice cap using RADARSAT derived satellite imagery to track global ice flows and the speed at which the ice flows will melt. According to the post, the collected data will be used to validate and improve weather forecasting and global warming models.
The Astro-H.
  • It's also worth noting that Neptec (generally known for space shuttle rendezvous and docking sensors) received it's first post shuttle contract last month with Orbital Sciences Corporation to provide Neptec designed and built TriDAR rendezvous and docking sensors for the Orbital Cygnus unmanned spacecraft. Canadian space systems firms will likely move into the post shuttle era without a lot of fuss and bother and this Neptec sale is a good example of the growing opportunities now becoming available.

I'm sure there are lots of other fun and fascinating things going on at our space agency and we should be encouraging the CSA to talk more about them.

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